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What Richmond, VA looked like in the 1860s Through these Rare Historical Photos

Richmond had almost 38,000 residents in 1860, including 11,739 enslaved people, and it reached over 100,000 by 1863, although no census was taken during the war. Some estimates place the number between 130,000 and 150,000 by 1865. Severe consequences accompanied the tremendous increase in population. Local police forces were small, and they could not control the crime wave until the war ended. Gambling dens and prostitution houses flourished in the city even after Confederate general John H. Winder took control in February 1862, while rival juvenile gangs threatened locals with petty robbery and assault. Laboring classes were significantly affected by overcrowding and inflation. Even though wages rose throughout the period, consumer prices continued to rise. Due to this social powder keg, the Richmond Bread Riot finally exploded on April 2, 1863. Most of the women worked in the city’s government bureaus and factories. They marched to the Executive Mansion to meet with Virginia governor John L. Letcher to celebrate their right to live. By the time the crowd reached the business district, hundreds of others had joined the crowd in anger at his rebuff. The artillery threat dispersed the mob after two hours of plunder and mob violence. Although the Bread Riot sobered local and Confederate officials, it also highlighted the desperate state of some in the city.

During the American Civil War, Richmond, Virginia, was the capital of the Confederate States of America. It served as the capital of Virginia, although the governor and General Assembly moved to Lynchburg for five days when the city was about to fall to Union forces in April 1865. Richmond was not only the political capital of the Confederacy but also a rail and industry hub, as well as a prisoner-of-war camp and Libby Prison. Tredegar ironworks was the keystone of the local economy, with grain milling and iron manufacturing also contributing to its success. The Bread Riot of April 1863 was one of several civil disturbances triggered by Confederate citizens flocking to the capital for safety and jobs from the start of the war. The Eastern Theater of the war was primarily fought in Richmond due to its economic and political importance and proximity to the government’s capital. This success-especially its ability to mobilize, outfit, and feed the Confederate armies in 1865-predestined its near destruction. Confederates essentially caused that destruction, although images of the city’s ruins are iconic representations of war’s toll.

Here are some stunning historical photos that show Richmon during and after the Civil War.

#1 View from Libby Hill looking west on Main Street, 1860s

View from Libby Hill looking west on Main Street, 1860s

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#2 Rocketts and south side of James River from Libby Hill, 1863

Rocketts and south side of James River from Libby Hill, 1863

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#3 Washington Monument, Capitol Square, Richmond, Va, 1861

Washington Monument, Capitol Square, Richmond, Va, 1861

The equestrian statue of George Washington at the Washington Monument in Capitol Square Park. The smaller pedestals below hold statues of Patrick Henry, George Mason, and Thomas Jefferson. The spire of St. Paul's Church is on the left.

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#4 A city in the distance across the river, Richmond, 1863

A city in the distance across the river, Richmond, 1863

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#5 Richmond, Virginia, 1862

Richmond, Virginia, 1862

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#6 View of James River and part of city of Richmond looking west from Libby Hill, 1863

View of James River and part of city of Richmond looking west from Libby Hill, 1863

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#7 The three story home of General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

The three story home of General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

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#8 A view of Rocketts and the south side of the James River from Libby Hill in Richmond, Virginia, 1862

A view of Rocketts and the south side of the James River from Libby Hill in Richmond, Virginia, 1862

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#9 Richmond, Va. Residence of Jefferson Davis (1201 East Clay Street); a closer view, 1860

Richmond, Va. Residence of Jefferson Davis (1201 East Clay Street); a closer view, 1860

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#10 Buildings at the wharf at Rocketts Landing on the south side of the James River in Richmond, Virginia, 1863

Buildings at the wharf at Rocketts Landing on the south side of the James River in Richmond, Virginia, 1863

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#11 Looking westward up James River, Richmond, Virginia, 1863

Looking westward up James River, Richmond, Virginia, 1863

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#12 A soldier standing by a pile of cannon barrels and cannon balls with the ruins of the city in the distance, 1863

A soldier standing by a pile of cannon barrels and cannon balls with the ruins of the city in the distance, 1863

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#13 Dock on south side of James River, opposite Richmond, 1864

Dock on south side of James River, opposite Richmond, 1864

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#14 Female Institute, 10th Street, Richmond, 1864

Female Institute, 10th Street, Richmond, 1864

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#15 The State Capitol, Richmond, 1863

The State Capitol, Richmond, 1863

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#16 The Governor’s Mansion, Richmond, 1863

The Governor's Mansion, Richmond, 1863

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#17 Group of African American men and women in front of the church on Broad Street in Richmond, 1864

Group of African American men and women in front of the church on Broad Street in Richmond, 1864

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#18 Ruins on Carey Street, Richmond, 1863

Ruins on Carey Street, Richmond, 1863

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#19 Ruins of Richmond and Petersburg Railroad Bridge, James River, Richmond, 1864

Ruins of Richmond and Petersburg Railroad Bridge, James River, Richmond, 1864

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#20 James River and Kanawha Canal near the Haxall Flour Mills, and ruins of Gallego Mills in the distance, 1863

James River and Kanawha Canal near the Haxall Flour Mills, and ruins of Gallego Mills in the distance, 1863

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#21 Ruins of Gallego Mills, Richmond, 1863

Ruins of Gallego Mills, Richmond, 1863

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#22 Saint John’s Church, Richmond, Virginia, where Patrick Henry delivered his famous speech, 1860

Saint John's Church, Richmond, Virginia, where Patrick Henry delivered his famous speech, 1860

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#23 Four soldiers in front of the Monumental Church at 1224 E. Broad Street in Richmond, 1865

Four soldiers in front of the Monumental Church at 1224 E. Broad Street in Richmond, 1865

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#24 Ruins on Carey Street, Richmond, 1863

Ruins on Carey Street, Richmond, 1863

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#25 The Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia, 1863

The Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia, 1863

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#26 Agroup of people including a child and a man holding on to a horse next to tents in front of Libby Prison, a Confederate military prison established in 1861.

Agroup of people including a child and a man holding on to a horse next to tents in front of Libby Prison, a Confederate military prison established in 1861.

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#27 Group portrait of General George Sykes and his staff in front of a tent, 1862

Group portrait of General George Sykes and his staff in front of a tent, 1862

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#28 Soldiers, horses, and mounted cannons from Captain James M. Robertson’s 2nd U.S. Artillery, 1862

Soldiers, horses, and mounted cannons from Captain James M. Robertson's 2nd U.S. Artillery, 1862

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#29 The main eastern theater of war, the Peninsular Campaign, May-August 1862.

The main eastern theater of war, the Peninsular Campaign, May-August 1862.

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#30 The main eastern theater of war, the Peninsular Campaign, 1862

The main eastern theater of war, the Peninsular Campaign, 1862

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#31 Old “Libby Prison” building, Richmond, Va, 1863

Old "Libby Prison" building, Richmond, Va, 1863

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#32 Castle Thunder, Richmond, on Carey, 1863

Castle Thunder, Richmond, on Carey, 1863

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#33 The ruins of the Richmond and Petersburg railroad bridge in the yard where the Confederate artillery was manufactured, 1863

The ruins of the Richmond and Petersburg railroad bridge in the yard where the Confederate artillery was manufactured, 1863

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#34 Soldiers, other people, and tents of Confederates outside of Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia, 1863

Soldiers, other people, and tents of Confederates outside of Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia, 1863

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#35 Old “Libby Prison” building, Richmond, 1862

Old "Libby Prison" building, Richmond, 1862

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#36 View of “Rocketts” & James River, Richmond, 1863

View of "Rocketts" & James River, Richmond, 1863

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#37 Castle Thunder, Richmond, 1860s

Castle Thunder, Richmond, 1860s

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#38 Libby Prison, Richmond, 1860s

Libby Prison, Richmond, 1860s

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#39 The Tradegar Iron Works, a major producer of cannons for the Confederacy during the war, 1860

The Tradegar Iron Works, a major producer of cannons for the Confederacy during the war, 1860

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#40 A crowd gathered in front of the Washington Monument in Richmond, Virginia, 1860

A crowd gathered in front of the Washington Monument in Richmond, Virginia, 1860

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#41 A large crowd including uniformed soldiers gathered in front of the Washington Monument in Richmond, Virginia, 1860

A large crowd including uniformed soldiers gathered in front of the Washington Monument in Richmond, Virginia, 1860

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#42 A group standing around a frozen fountain in Capitol Square, near the Washington Monument in Richmond, Virginia, 1860

A group standing around a frozen fountain in Capitol Square, near the Washington Monument in Richmond, Virginia, 1860

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#43 The Virginia Washington Monument in Capitol Square in Richmond, Virginia with the spire of St. Paul’s Church on the left, 1860

The Virginia Washington Monument in Capitol Square in Richmond, Virginia with the spire of St. Paul's Church on the left, 1860

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#44 Governor’s Mansion, 1860s

Governor's Mansion, 1860s

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#45 James Monroe’s tomb, near Richmond, 1863

James Monroe's tomb, near Richmond, 1863

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#46 Men and a horse next to tents in front of Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia, 1863

Men and a horse next to tents in front of Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia, 1863

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#47 A view of a busy street scene in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

A view of a busy street scene in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

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#48 A street view of the Spotswood Hotel in Richmond, Virginia, 1861

A street view of the Spotswood Hotel in Richmond, Virginia, 1861

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#49 A crowd gathered for the Confederate Celebration at the Virginia State Capitol celebrating the victory at the first battle of Manassas, 1861

A crowd gathered for the Confederate Celebration at the Virginia State Capitol celebrating the victory at the first battle of Manassas, 1861

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#50 The Gallego Flour Mill on the James River before the fall of Richmond in 1865

The Gallego Flour Mill on the James River before the fall of Richmond in 1865

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#51 Three people in front of the home of General Robert E. Lee, at 707 E. Franklin Street in Richmond, Virginia, 1861

Three people in front of the home of General Robert E. Lee, at 707 E. Franklin Street in Richmond, Virginia, 1861

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#52 A group of people including soldiers standing outside Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, 1869

A group of people including soldiers standing outside Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, 1869

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#53 A damaged smokestack from the Confederate ram “Virginia No. 2” full of holes from Union gunshots, and further damaged by the Confederates before their evacuation of the city, 1864

A damaged smokestack from the Confederate ram "Virginia No. 2" full of holes from Union gunshots, and further damaged by the Confederates before their evacuation of the city, 1864

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#54 An aerial view of Rocketts Landing on the James River in Richmond, Virginia, 1864

An aerial view of Rocketts Landing on the James River in Richmond, Virginia, 1864

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#55 An exterior view of the site of the Confederate military prison, 1861

An exterior view of the site of the Confederate military prison, 1861

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#56 Libby Prison, Richmond, 1860s

Libby Prison, Richmond, 1860s

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#57 View of Richmond, at the close of the rebellion, 1860s

View of Richmond, at the close of the rebellion, 1860s

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#58 Treasury building, now National Bank of Virginia, 1861

Treasury building, now National Bank of Virginia, 1861

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#59 The Virginia State Penetentiary on Gamble’s Hill in Richmond, Virginia, 1861

The Virginia State Penetentiary on Gamble's Hill in Richmond, Virginia, 1861

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#60 An aerial view of ruins along a street in Richmond, Virginia, 1861

An aerial view of ruins along a street in Richmond, Virginia, 1861

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#61 Ruins of the State Arsenal along the canal in Richmond, Virginia, 1861

Ruins of the State Arsenal along the canal in Richmond, Virginia, 1861

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#62 A group of men seated in the portico of the governor’s mansion in Richmond, 1861

A group of men seated in the portico of the governor's mansion in Richmond, 1861

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#63 A ship building facility in a rural area near Richmond, Virginia, 1861

A ship building facility in a rural area near Richmond, Virginia, 1861

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#64 A view of Capitol Square Park in downtown Richmond. The Virginia state capitol building is on the right, 1861

A view of Capitol Square Park in downtown Richmond. The Virginia state capitol building is on the right, 1861

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#65 West facade of the Virginia State Capitol building in Capitol Square Park in Richmond, Virginia, 1861

West facade of the Virginia State Capitol building in Capitol Square Park in Richmond, Virginia, 1861

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#66 Ruins of Petersburg and Richmond railroad bridge, across the James, 1864

Ruins of Petersburg and Richmond railroad bridge, across the James, 1864

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#67 A group of people gathered outside Libby Prison, an old tobacco warehouse and former Confederate military prison, now held by the Union Army, 1866

A group of people gathered outside Libby Prison, an old tobacco warehouse and former Confederate military prison, now held by the Union Army, 1866

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#68 View on canal, near Crenshaw’s Mill, Richmond, Virginia, 1866

View on canal, near Crenshaw's Mill, Richmond, Virginia, 1866

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#69 Washington Monument, Capitol Square, Richmond with the spire of St. Paul’s Church on left, 1868

Washington Monument, Capitol Square, Richmond with the spire of St. Paul's Church on left, 1868

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#70 Richmond, Va. Captured siege guns at Rocketts; different view, 1865

Richmond, Va. Captured siege guns at Rocketts; different view, 1865

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#71 Aerial view of Richmond, Virginia, showing ruins of buildings in the “Burnt District, 1865

Aerial view of Richmond, Virginia, showing ruins of buildings in the "Burnt District, 1865

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#72 Burnt district, 1865

Burnt district, 1865

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#73 Man standing on shore overlooking ruins of bridge with ruins of city in background, Richmond, 1865

Man standing on shore overlooking ruins of bridge with ruins of city in background, Richmond, 1865

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#74 Richmond and Petersburg R.R. Bridge, James River, Richmond, 1865

Richmond and Petersburg R.R. Bridge, James River, Richmond, 1865

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#75 Grounds of Virginia state capitol in Richmond with capitol building in the distance, 1865

Grounds of Virginia state capitol in Richmond with capitol building in the distance, 1865

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#76 Cannon with two soldiers and a civilian awaiting shipment on a wharf in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

Cannon with two soldiers and a civilian awaiting shipment on a wharf in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

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#77 Two Union soldiers standing amid the cannons and caissons captured by the Union near Rocketts in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

Two Union soldiers standing amid the cannons and caissons captured by the Union near Rocketts in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

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#78 Two soldiers standing amid the cannons and caissons captured by the Union near Rocketts in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

Two soldiers standing amid the cannons and caissons captured by the Union near Rocketts in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

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#79 A group of men standing inside and outside of a stone house located at 1916 E. Main Street, Richmond, 1865

A group of men standing inside and outside of a stone house located at 1916 E. Main Street, Richmond, 1865

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#80 An aerial view of demolished buildings after the Confederates abandoned the city in 1865.

An aerial view of demolished buildings after the Confederates abandoned the city in 1865.

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#81 A group in front of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

A group in front of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

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#82 A street view of the Spotswood Hotel in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

A street view of the Spotswood Hotel in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

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#83 The church yard surrounding St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

The church yard surrounding St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

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#84 Castle Thunder on Cary Street in Richmond where Union soldiers were confined during the Civil War, 1865

Castle Thunder on Cary Street in Richmond where Union soldiers were confined during the Civil War, 1865

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#85 Monumental Church at 1224 E. Broad Street, in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

Monumental Church at 1224 E. Broad Street, in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

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#86 A commercial area along Main Street in Richmond, Virginia, 1860s

A commercial area along Main Street in Richmond, Virginia, 1860s

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#87 A man standing in front of Libby Prison, a Confederate facility in Richmond, Virginia, 1860

A man standing in front of Libby Prison, a Confederate facility in Richmond, Virginia, 1860

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#88 Union soldiers and a civilian standing on and near a locomotive at the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad Depot which was destroyed by Confederate troops as they fled the city, 1865

Union soldiers and a civilian standing on and near a locomotive at the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad Depot which was destroyed by Confederate troops as they fled the city, 1865

Over 700 buildings in Richmond were destroyed including the one behind the locomotive.

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#89 Captured Confederate cannons at Rocketts Landing in Richmond in the process of being shipped to Fort Monroe, 1865

Captured Confederate cannons at Rocketts Landing in Richmond in the process of being shipped to Fort Monroe, 1865

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#90 View on Dock street, Richmond, Va., April, 1865

View on Dock street, Richmond, Va., April, 1865

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#91 Confederate mounted cannons at Rocketts Landing in Richmond, 1865

Confederate mounted cannons at Rocketts Landing in Richmond, 1865

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#92 Castle Thunder — Confederate prison, 1865

Castle Thunder -- Confederate prison, 1865

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#93 The ruins of the former Virginia State Armory along the canal in Richmond, Virginia after the Confederates abandoned the city, 1865

The ruins of the former Virginia State Armory along the canal in Richmond, Virginia after the Confederates abandoned the city, 1865

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#94 An aerial view of Richmond before the evacuation of the Confederates in 1865.

An aerial view of Richmond before the evacuation of the Confederates in 1865.

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#95 An exterior view of the site of the Confederate military prison with a group of people standing outside, 1865

An exterior view of the site of the Confederate military prison with a group of people standing outside, 1865

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#96 Exterior view of City Hospital in Richmond, 1865

Exterior view of City Hospital in Richmond, 1865

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#97 Exterior view of the prison with people milling about in the prison yard, Richmond, 1865

Exterior view of the prison with people milling about in the prison yard, Richmond, 1865

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#98 View of the Lynchburgh (i.e. Lynchburg) Canal, and the ruins of the Danville railroad depot, Richmond, 1865

View of the Lynchburgh (i.e. Lynchburg) Canal, and the ruins of the Danville railroad depot, Richmond, 1865

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#99 Washington monument, in the Capitol grounds, Richmond, 1865

Washington monument, in the Capitol grounds, Richmond, 1865

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#100 View on the Lynchburgh (i.e. Lynchburg) Canal, near the Haxall Flour Mills, Richmond, 1865

View on the Lynchburgh (i.e. Lynchburg) Canal, near the Haxall Flour Mills, Richmond, 1865

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#101 Arsenal grounds, Richmond, showing ruins and shot and shell scattered around, 1865.

Arsenal grounds, Richmond, showing ruins and shot and shell scattered around, 1865.

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#102 Ruins of the burnt district, from the canal basin, Richmond, 1865

Ruins of the burnt district, from the canal basin, Richmond, 1865

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#103 Arsenal grounds, Richmond, Va., showing ruins and shot and shell scattered around. 1865.

Arsenal grounds, Richmond, Va., showing ruins and shot and shell scattered around. 1865.

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#104 View from the Petersburgh railroad Depot, Richmond, Va., looking south-west, showing a portion of the burnt district, and Gamble Hill in the distance, 1865.

View from the Petersburgh railroad Depot, Richmond, Va., looking south-west, showing a portion of the burnt district, and Gamble Hill in the distance, 1865.

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#105 View in the arsenal grounds, Richmond, 1865

View in the arsenal grounds, Richmond, 1865

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#106 People mingling on the street outside of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Grace Street in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

People mingling on the street outside of St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Grace Street in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

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#107 View of Richmond Va., at the close of the rebellion, 1865

View of Richmond Va., at the close of the rebellion, 1865

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#108 An aerial view of the “burnt district” in Richmond, taken from the old arsenal. The James River in background, 1865

An aerial view of the "burnt district" in Richmond, taken from the old arsenal. The James River in background, 1865

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#109 The prison on Cary Street in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

The prison on Cary Street in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

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#110 Charles H. Page’s Coal and Wood business operating near the brick warehouse that was formerly Castle Thunder, a Civil War prison in Richmond, 1864

Charles H. Page's Coal and Wood business operating near the brick warehouse that was formerly Castle Thunder, a Civil War prison in Richmond, 1864

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#111 An aerial view of the “burnt district” in Richmond, taken from the old arsenal, 1865

An aerial view of the "burnt district" in Richmond, taken from the old arsenal, 1865

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#112 An aerial view of the “burnt district” in Richmond, taken from the old arsenal, 1865

An aerial view of the "burnt district" in Richmond, taken from the old arsenal, 1865

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#113 Ruins of Richmond & Petersburg Railroad depot, 1865

Ruins of Richmond & Petersburg Railroad depot, 1865

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#114 Grave of Confederate cavalry General James E.B. Stuart in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, 1864

Grave of Confederate cavalry General James E.B. Stuart in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, 1864

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#115 A street view of the Confederate military prison in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

A street view of the Confederate military prison in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

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#116 Aan aerial view of Richmond, Virginia, 1865

Aan aerial view of Richmond, Virginia, 1865

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#117 Libby Prison, Richmond,April 1865

Libby Prison, Richmond,April 1865

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#118 Statue of George Washington on horseback on top of a monument in the Capitol Square area of Richmond, Virginia, 1865

Statue of George Washington on horseback on top of a monument in the Capitol Square area of Richmond, Virginia, 1865

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#119 Manchester Mills & pontoon bridges, 15, 1865

Manchester Mills & pontoon bridges, 15, 1865

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#120 The custom house, Richmond, 1865

The custom house, Richmond, 1865

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#121 Railroad yard ruins, Richmond, 1865

Railroad yard ruins, Richmond, 1865

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#122 A Union guard standing next to Castle Thunder, a Confederate military prison in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

A Union guard standing next to Castle Thunder, a Confederate military prison in Richmond, Virginia, 1865

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#123 Union soldiers pull a fire engine from a garage designated Petersburg artillery, 1865

Union soldiers pull a fire engine from a garage designated Petersburg artillery, 1865

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#124 Captured guns at Richmond ready for transportation to Washington, May, 1865

Captured guns at Richmond ready for transportation to Washington, May, 1865

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#125 Confederate hospital near Richmond, April 1865

Confederate hospital near Richmond, April 1865

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#126 Richmond, looking across canal basin, Capitol and Custom House in distance, 1865

Richmond, looking across canal basin, Capitol and Custom House in distance, 1865

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#127 Ruins at Richmond, Va., canal in foreground, ruins in background, 1865

Ruins at Richmond, Va., canal in foreground, ruins in background, 1865

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#128 Two soldiers, three boys and piles of cannonballs among ruins, 1865

Two soldiers, three boys and piles of cannonballs among ruins, 1865

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#129 Ruins of paper mill and railroad bridge, Richmond, 1865

Ruins of paper mill and railroad bridge, Richmond, 1865

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#130 Ruins in Richmond, cor. Carey and Governor Sts, 1865

Ruins in Richmond, cor. Carey and Governor Sts, 1865

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#131 Corner Governor and Cary Streets, Richmond, May 1865

Corner Governor and Cary Streets, Richmond, May 1865

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#132 Ruins of Richmond, 1865

Ruins of Richmond, 1865

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